Legislation is pending before Congress to combat a dangerous form of Internet fraud and abuse. Criminals are using rogue websites – often cunningly designed to resemble legitimate online destinations – to sell counterfeit goods of all kinds, as well as to offer pirated copies of copyrighted materials. By flooding the U.S. market with illicit products, these sites steal U.S. jobs, undermine our economy, and threaten consumer health and safety. These operations are often set up overseas, in countries like China that show little respect for intellectual property (IP), and are therefore effectively beyond the reach of U.S. law enforcement.
Rogue sites legislation—the Senate’s PROTECT IP Act (S. 968) and the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act (H.R. 3261), propose measures that would enhance the tools available to fight these rogue websites and the damages they cause. If passed, the legislation would authorize the Justice Department to ask federal courts to order Internet service providers to block access to sites that have been determined to be “dedicated to [the] infringement” of IP rights.
The bills contain strict proof requirements for the “rogue site” determination, as well as strong due process safeguards to reduce any risk to legitimate online activities. But recently, a few opponents of the legislation have raised another objection: that the bill “DNS blocking” technique of blocking access to specified websites—regardless of how carefully it is done and how closely it is supervised by federal courts—is risky, unprecedented, and threatens to “break the Internet.”